Death Rates by Terrorism in France
The attack in Nice killed 84 people. There are 66.4 million people in France.
That’s one in every 790476 people, or about 1.3 in every million. Slightly over one micromort. Given that we’re six months into 2016, that suggests a base rate of round two micromorts per year.
Of course, it would be foolish to base your estimation on one data point. Besides, the year 2016 is an arbitrary human construct, and there’s no reason to believe there will be another attack this year.
Last year, 137 people were killed in the Paris attacks. That’s 1 in 484672, or almost exactly two micromorts.
By way of comparison, this is about the risk you take every time you go bungee-jumping. You experience two micromorts for every twelve miles you drive on a motorbike, and every litre of wine you drink.
Every year, you experience one-fifth of a micromort from the risk of being struck by lightning.
In England, you experience about ten micromorts a year from homicide; in the US, this rises to 48 micromorts a year.
France falls closer to England; in 2014, there were 792 intentional homicides in France – 12 micromorts – of which only one could reasonably be called a victim of terrorism. As such, you are now roughly a sixth as likely to be killed by a terrorist in France than anyone else.
During the Troubles in Ireland, civilians in the North experienced perhaps 45 micromorts a year on average from military and paramilitaries both.
Of course, homicide is rare. The three countries, France, Britain and the US, have similar death rates; in which all homicide is essentially a rounding error. People living in the US face an average total of 8100 micromorts a year.
I wrote this article not to “debunk” claims that we should be worried about terrorism. Nor do I write it to demonstrate that terrorism is a real threat.
These are just the facts, and I think we should base our actions on the facts.
We pay a lot of attention to causes of death that are rare. Part of that is that we are fearful and stupid and have no head for numbers.
Part of it is that we are hopeful. Violent crime is on the decline, and we all have ideas for how we might make it decline even further.
Terrorism is not on the decline.
Of course, most deaths from terrorism do not occur in France. Nor do they occur anywhere where people read my blog. It may well be that this is more meaningfully similar to a school shooting or serial killer, a copycat inspired by a similar attack or simply a man who was drunk and angry and went on a rampage. It may well be that our general views on terrorism should not meaningfully be changed by anything I’ve written here.
Nevertheless, terrorism is a form of violence which is not on the decline globally or in the West.
And that’s … concerning.